Today is National Grandparents Day and a good time to remind everyone about the dangers of the infamous grandparent scam. Many of you are familiar with the grandparent scam where a grandparent receives a telephone call from someone purporting to be their grandchild who has gotten into some trouble, either a traffic accident, legal trouble or medical  problems in a far away place.  The caller pleads for the grandparent to wire some money immediately to help alleviate the problem or even send money by buying gift cards and giving the gift card numbers to the caller over the phone.  However the caller also begs the grandparent not to tell mom and dad.  One would think that no one would be gullible enough to fall for this scam, but don’t be so hard on the victims of this scam.  Scam artists, the only criminals we refer to as artists, have a knowledge of psychology of which Freud would have been envious and are able to use that knowledge to persuade their victims to send money right away.
TIPS
Sometimes the scammers do not know the name of their victim’s grandchildren, but often they do.  Sometimes they get this information from perusing obituaries which may name grandchildren by name so merely because the correct name is used in the call is no reason to believe the call.  Don’t respond immediately to such a call without calling the real grandchild on his or her cell phone or call the parents and confirm the whereabouts of the grandchild.  If a medical problem is the ruse used, you can call the real hospital.  If legal problems are the ruse, you can call the real police.  You can also test the caller with a question that could be answered only by the real grandchild, but make sure that it really is a question that  only the real grandchild could answer and not just anyone who might read the real grandchild’ s Facebook page or other social media.  As I always say, “trust me, you can’t trust anyone.” Often social media provides the detailed information necessary to trick the grandparents into thinking the call is from their grandchildren. Everyone should check the privacy settings on their social media accounts to limit the people who see postings to just those you want to see them.
Never wire money unless you are absolutely sure about to whom you are wiring the money and it is not a scam.  Once you have wired money, it is gone forever. As for gift cards, anytime you are asked for a payment over the phone by way of gift cards, it is a scam. A common scam involving IRS impostors asks for payment by gift cards. The IRS does not accept payments by gift cards. Also,  students traveling abroad should register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/before-you-go/step.html  This program can help with communications in an emergency situation.
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